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Police to get internet data powers

Police are to get powers to force internet firms to hand over details that could help identify suspected terrorists and paedophiles.

The Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill will oblige internet service providers (ISPs) to retain information linking Internet Protocol (IP) addresses to individual users.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the measure would boost national security - but again complained that Liberal Democrats were blocking further steps.

"Loss of the capabilities on which we have always relied is the great danger we face," Mrs May said. "The Bill provides the opportunity to resolve the very real problems that exist around IP resolution and is a step in the right direction towards bridging the overall communications data capability gap.

"But I believe we need to make further changes to the law.

"It is a matter of national security and we must keep on making the case for the Communications Data Bill until we get the changes we need."

However, the Lib Dems insisted that legislation - branded the "Snooper's Charter" - was "dead and buried".

The party also stressed that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had been calling for the IP measures since spring 2013.

"It is good news that the Home Office has finally got round to producing proposals on this after being repeatedly asked by Nick Clegg. These can now be agreed and acted on in the upcoming Bill," a Lib Dem spokesman said.

"This is exactly the kind of thing that we need to take action on, rather than proposing an unnecessary, unworkable and disproportionate Snooper's Charter. There is absolutely no chance of that illiberal Bill coming back under the coalition Government - it's dead and buried.

"The issue of IP address matching only resurfaced as a result of deeply misleading claims made in Theresa May's conference speech. That is what has prompted the Home Office to stop sitting on their hands."

Emma Carr, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "It is perfectly reasonable that powers to provide the police with the ability to match an IP address to the person using that service is investigated.

"However, if such a power is required, then it should be subject to the widespread consultation and comprehensive scrutiny that has been sorely lacking to date with industry, civil society and the wider public when it comes to introducing new surveillance powers.

"Before setting her sights on reviving the snooper's charter, the Home Secretary should address the fact that one of the biggest challenges facing the police is making use of the huge volume of data that is already available, including data from social media and internet companies. The snooper's charter would not have addressed this, while diverting billions from investing in skills and training for the police."

Tory David Davis warned of a "stepping stone back to the old Snooper's Charter".

The MP for Haltemprice and Howden told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "It's a stepping stone back to the old Snooper's Charter. The thing that Parliament roundly threw out about a year and half ago, two years ago because they weren't convinced that this was necessary.

"Now this technical change is okay, it's sensible, but the Home Secretary has said in effect that she sees it as a route back into the whole Snooper's Charter and, frankly, I think she's going to have real trouble."

Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he believed policy was going in the "right direction" but insisted parliament had to decide on the balance between privacy and security.

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr show he understood that many people "mistrust the state and worry about their privacy".

"I think we have all got to rise to the challenge, whether it is police, government," Sir Bernard said.

"There is no doubt that it is difficult. First of all complexity, the internet is changing, all these communications drivers are changing.

"All I can do is make the case for why we need to maintain security."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "We will look at the detail the Government brings forward on making it possible for the police and security services to identify terrorists and criminals online.

"We have always said that key information on IP addresses is required by the police when investigating who has sent abusive images of children or terror threats.

"It is important that access must be subject to appropriate oversight providing sufficient checks and balances.

"The Government wanted to take powers that were far too widely drawn in the Communications Data bill and we have insisted on a major review of RIPA by the independent terrorism reviewer.

"Public confidence must be maintained to make sure the invaluable work of the police and security services do to keep us safe can continue and is supported."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of campaign group Liberty, said: "There's no problem with the targeted investigation of terrorist suspects, including where it requires linking apparently anonymous communications to a particular person.

"But every government proposal of the last so many years has been about blanket surveillance of the entire population.

"The Snowden revelations demonstrate that they were even prepared to act outside the law and without parliamentary consent. So, forgive us if we look for the devil in the detail of this new Bill."

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